Has America really underinvested in science education?
July 26th, 2012
06:33 PM ET

Has America really underinvested in science education?

By Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Alex Berezow is the editor of RealClearScience. Hank Campbell is founder of Science 2.0. They are authors of the forthcoming book Science Left Behind. The views expressed are their own.

On Global Public Square last month, Fareed Zakaria made the case that the U.S. economy is struggling in part due to poor investment in science. He based this conclusion on two claims: First, that federal research and development (R&D) investment has declined over the past several years and, second, that American students have fallen behind in science education.

The first claim, while true, only tells part of the story. As we discuss in the upcoming Science Left Behind, American R&D investment has been relatively consistent for the past 30 years, never dropping below 2.3 percent of GDP. Though the federal portion of U.S. R&D investment has fallen during this period, the private sector has actually picked up the slack. Indeed, the most recent estimate for 2012 shows that the U.S. will spend approximately 2.85 percent of its GDP on R&D.


Filed under: 2012 Election • Science Education • Voices
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Mike

    Maybe just maybe if the majority of religious people stopped trying to get religion back into the public schools science will have a chance.

    Just look at the asinine creationists wanting to teach children that this so-called God created man.

    Religion does more harm than good in modern day society.

    August 21, 2012 at 1:05 am |
  2. Mike

    Of course U.S. has under-invested in science while over-investing in religion. America has always put religion ahead of everything. It is no wonder America is behind in the field of science

    August 21, 2012 at 1:01 am |
  3. jason

    I would say, that scientists promise big but do not deliver, – read richard (polish name with ski) cannot remember full name but he used to run around with Carl Sagan – Billions of daemons – He talks about this issue

    August 20, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • jason

      stupid auto-spell – demons

      August 20, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
  4. notanittttalllflflfkk

    It doesn't count as "investing in science" if it's for military application, if anything worthwhile is created it will be weaponized and hidden from the public, it's benefits may not be seen for ten or a hundred years.

    Example, remote mind control.

    August 14, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • tc

      Are you kidding? Most the tech we enjoy now was created VIA military From Medical supplies and tech to computers and cell phones. We are cutting the military budget and cutting education budgets not to mention the tons of research and surveys that show kids saying its too hard to do and change majors cause they want to graduate in 3 years vs sticking it for 5 years and getting a degree and career.

      August 20, 2012 at 4:02 am |
  5. George Harmes

    Science what? ... All I need to know is how to make ice cream, pretzels and pop corn $$$ :)))

    August 13, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • w murderface668

      It takes science to make Icecream and popcorn

      August 13, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  6. Keith B Rosenberg

    You can always find some organization who thinks that Uncle Sugar "under-invests" in anything you care to name.

    August 11, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  7. pattic

    "Has the U.S. underinvested in science?" Yes.

    August 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  8. New Gawker

    It's difficult to teach science when school boards across the country are being infiltrated by religious zealots trying to push real science and fact to the back burner to push their own religious agenda. Does anyone really believe intelligent design is real science??

    August 9, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • paul321

      Science is seen as the enemy by those who are unable to back up their own cases with fact. Hence the hostility from religious groups and others.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Jorge

      Not just religious zealots, Gawker. Political hacks, bored, rich matrons with weird ideas, neighborhood tribalists and sleazy contractors. I work in a school district, and the board meetings are exasperating exercises in self-service, if nothing else. We need to wipe out the decentralised U.S. school board system, it's making the country stupid and unemployable.

      August 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  9. Jorge

    The U.S. has underinvested in science because it's just too damn hard. Your average American schoolkid today has a brain that is being ruined by cartoons, video games, antisocial music videos, magazines apparently published by/for the mentally handicapped, football coaches with closet problems, dysfunctional parents, hormones in their food and peer pressure (among other things). Teaching him/her science is an Olympic task akin to feeding an angry pit bull raw onions foie gras style, there's just too much junk in that head to fit any quality stuff in it.

    August 7, 2012 at 7:43 am |
  10. rebiii

    Government priorities in funding science are the same as they are for the national budget. In particular the government is interested in supporting espionage, the military, and the economy.

    Funding of knowledge for knowledge's sake is very low.

    What the government does is fund birders to spy in Latin America or graduate students to spy on each other, research scientists that have anything to do with weapons development, and research into anything that could help or harm the economy, such as control of noxious insects, etc. That's pretty much it, except for token amounts here and there which mean little, in the same way that the candy which the military hands out to children in foreign countries has little to do with the military's mission.

    To disbelieve this scenario, you have to believe that the government has one set of priorities for the F.B.I., N.S.A., C.I.A., etc., where every email and phone call made in America passes through a fusion center, etc. (no need to elaborate too much–we all know the story) and an entirely different set priorities for the billions of dollars that they hand out in scientific grants, where national security is not even considered.

    Yeah, right.

    If you are willing to do dirty tricks for them, you get grant money. If not, you have a marginal career. If you don't understand this scenario, then you are some combination of naive, inexperienced (never worked in the sciences at the graduate level or above), or not particularly discerning.

    That's not the world as we would like it to be, folks, but it's the world as it is.

    August 5, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  11. hypatia

    Of course we have. After all, the thugs and teapots don't want none o' that larnin' stuff. It rots kids brains and make them not believe in Jebus.....

    August 5, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  12. Poltergiest

    Who would want to educate an American when you could educate and hire an Indian/Chinese/African immigrant for a mere fraction of the cost anyways?

    There's no funding for science education because companies can get these skills cheaper elsewhere. Welcome to the Global Economy.

    August 5, 2012 at 7:13 am |
  13. str8vision

    America hates science and all but stopped investing in the field. Scientist had the nerve to suggest the Earth is much older than 6000 years, isn't the center of the universe nor flat. They continue to claim pumping hazardous chemicals, trash and toxic gas into the planet's biosphere is somehow harmful even after Rush and Hannity said it wasn't. But the straw that broke the camel's back involved their insisting life originated and evolved naturally. We all know that an invisible magic being (that noone other than the mentally ill or dishonest has ever seen or heard) waved his hand and poooof..... Who needs science when we have clerics, snake handling preachers and the like to simply tell us how it is.

    August 4, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  14. Ted Watrd

    Yes, the US has underinvested in science for a long time. Congress cancelled the superconducting supercollider, thus throwing away american prestige and dominance in the all important particle physics arena. Now, the LHC in France and Switzerland has done what should have been done in the US, find the HIggs Boson. Congress is clueless, can't balance a budget and has no idea the importance of big science, like particle physics. Now thousands of the best and brightest physicists and engineers work, teach, write, invent and discover in Europe instead of the US.

    August 4, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  15. Chris



    August 3, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  16. merridee

    The US is terribly under-invested in the sciences and that, among other reasons, is why within the next 20 years, the US will have descended to third world status as a failed nation. We don't expect better, we don't demand better... we're just happy handing off our intellectual heritage so that we can feel safe and snug in our little churches.

    August 3, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  17. BOB

    Yet, scientific agencies such as NASA only get less than 1/2 of 1 percent...

    August 2, 2012 at 8:56 pm |


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